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Morphology of the elytral base sclerites

Sugimoto, Miwa, Ogawa, Naoki, Yoshizawa, Kazunori
Arthropod structure & development 2018 v.47 no.4 pp. 423-429
Coleoptera, arthropods, elytra, flight, phylogeny, thorax
The elytral base sclerites (= sclerites located at the articular region between the forewing and thorax in Coleoptera) of selected taxa were examined and homologized. Although the elytral base sclerites are highly modified compared to the wing base sclerites of the other neopterans, they can be homologized by using the conservative wing flapping and folding lines as landmarks. A reduction of the first axillary sclerite was identified as a general trend of the elytral base sclerites, although the sclerite usually has a very important function to mediate flight power from the notum to the wing. This result indicates that the functional constraint against the basal sclerites is relaxed because of the lack of an ability to produce flight power by elytra. In contrast, the elytral folding system formed by the basal sclerites is well retained, which probably occurs because proper wing folding is a key for the shelter function of the elytra. The elytral base sclerites apparently contain more homoplasies than the serially homologous hindwing base sclerites of Coleoptera, which suggests that the structure is less useful for higher-level systematics. However, the faster evolutionary rate of the elytral base sclerites suggests there is potential for studying the lower-level phylogeny of Coleoptera.